Resources

The Bible Project

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The Bible Project… What is it?

Their mission “is to show how the Bible is a unified series that leads to Jesus.”

I first heard of this few months ago and eagerly signed up to ‘read daily scriptures.’ Each video is 5 – 10 minutes long covering different books and topics of the Bible. Cartoon sketches appear on the screen as a narrator takes us through the big picture of the Bible and how it fits into Gods greater story. It is fun, well told, visually appealing, and there must be close to a hundred videos to watch! There are even downloadable resources such as posters to accompany most of the videos.

Despite all that, our busy household couldn’t keep up with the length of the daily readings, although we did thoroughly enjoy their videos which give a big view of the Bible as well as overviews of each Biblical book. So we eventually gave up on using it as a daily family activity.

As usual, it is God that prompts us back to something that is really good. Our home group somehow ended up talking about Jonah when our current study guide asked us ‘are you a Jonah?’ Most of us have grown up knowing the story of Jonah and the whale. Young children can get quite amused at the concept of Jonah being vomited up on the beach from the mouth of a whale; as we get older we ponder the reality of being stuck inside a whale stomach for several days. Is that even possible?

We kept chatting, considering the truculent Jonah running from God, finally obeying God, and then sulking on a hill because God forgave the Nineavites and there was no mass destruction of lives. So we looked up the Bible Project. It’s American, it’s well done, only 9 minutes long and it gave a totally different perspective. Did you know the story is almost a comedy of paradoxes: of the one anointed by God continually running, yet the non-believers (the sailors) praying to God for safety from the storm; Jonah asking to be thrown – with certain death – into the raging seas rather than being obedient, and once he falls in the water the seas calm down. We see the same again as the Ninevites after hearing just seven words – and not one word mentions God – repenting from their sinful ways. Instantly! And Jonah the deliverer of the message throws a tantrum?

The outcome of our 9 minute video was running way over time with our home group, our youth group is studying Jonah at present, so guess what they’ll be watching on Sunday. And one mum in the home group will be showing the videos to her 10 year old son to encourage him to read the Bible. Now that is one powerful use of new media to get a new generation to think about the meaning of the Bible and how it all leads us to Jesus!

I for one will be turning to it a lot more often in future, to help our understanding when reading the Bible. Click the link below and go take a look. For those of you with grandchildren over the age of 10, why not give it a try, and get their feedback?

www.thebibleproject.com/explore

And am I ‘a Jonah’? Yes, it seems I might be. The story of Jonah it seems is a reflection of humanity. God calls us and we so often refuse to listen. But he is persistent and loves us, saves us from some unusual predicaments in some very creative ways and when he sets us a task does a lot to help us achieve it.

We’re all called to Pray (Issue 32)

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In the latest Intermission we’re looking at the link between mission and prayer. Below you’ll find the introduction – we’ll post the articles from the magazine over the next few weeks. To receive the Intermission in the post fill in this form or email office@nzcms.org.nz

A group of us on a mission school, frustrated at our own apathy, committed to getting up at 6 in the mornings to spend two hours in prayer. It lasted one morning. And even then, most of us fell back asleep within ten minutes.

A problem with teachings on prayer is that they can amp up the pressure we’re already feeling. We all know that prayer is important, and many (many!) of us feel we’re failing in this department. Yet I’ve seen it time and time again: people make resolutions to grow in prayer… but they’re often so incredibly idealistic and unrealistic that they’re doomed to fail.

We’re not wanting to burden you with more pressure, but instead show that it really is possible to grow in prayer – personal time with God, prayer with others, prayer for others. So at the outset we want to make this clear: don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself, because when you don’t measure up you’ll likely give up. If you feel God’s inviting you to become a prayer warrior and pray for two hours every morning, start off with 5 minutes. Once you’ve mastered that, increase it to 7 minutes. God is far more gracious with us than we’re often willing to be. Incremental steps in the right direction are far better than giant leaps that last one morning!

To help us all grow in this area, this Intermission explores prayer as it relates to mission from a variety of angles: How prayer can lead to discovering our calling in God. How prayer and mission fit together. How prayer relates to being a family-on-mission. How prayer is different through stages of life. We hope this inspires you as you pursue God in prayer.

Resource: Missions Dilemma (part 2)

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This series is so good that I just had to write about it for a second time. The first ‘chapter’ of this DVD series gets us to think about mission from the receivers’ point of view, particularly when it comes to short-term teams.

Often the receivers don’t want to say or do anything negative towards a mission team and so will allow the mission team to continue on a course of action that might actually be detrimental. This session of the series includes interviews with Oscar Muriu (of Nairobi Chapel in Kenya that has grown from 20 to 3000 people), Dr Florence Muindi (who is a thought leader in community development) and Steve Hawthorne, all giving their perspective on how missions teams can get it wrong. This is not a negative session, it is simply highlighting points that can so easily be missed such as “don’t come to fix us,” “come to be our friends,” and “don’t make up projects for God.”

One reason this seven session course never gets dry is that Steve interweaves Bible readings from Bible versions that we would possibly never consider reading. He intersperses it with quotes from Da Jesus Book (a Rastafarian translation) along with more conventional bible versions. As an example have a read of this:

Numba 2 Fo Da Corint Peopo 5:17, 17 & 20

Dass why, whoevea stay tight wit Christ, dy one new guy. Da old tings no stay no moa! Look! Da new tings wen come. All dat stuff come from God. He wen bring us back da same side wit him, cuz a wat Christ wen do. An he tell us for work so da odda peopo can come back togedda wit him too…”

 

Mission Dilemmas could easily be shown after a church service over a cuppa, in place of a sermon or as part of a home group discussion. This is a powerful and compelling series that can expose the entire congregation to solid missional reflection.

A Rocha’s Rich Living

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Last year’s Intermission on sustainable living and mission mentioned that A Rocha would be producing a resource for churches and Christian groups. It’s finally here! They’ve made it available for free online, so we encourage you to check it out and consider how your church can engage with the material.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t merely about caring for the environment or creation, but is actually about evangelism as well. Many younger people believe – rightly or wrongly – that Christians don’t care much for the environment, and as a result they have no interest in hearing what we have to say. If we want our witness to mean something in today’s world, we need to take seriously our original commission to steward God’s creation!

Evidence that contemporary human consumption habits are unsustainable and that existing Western ‘lifestyles’ have a detrimental affect on ecosystems, thus negatively affecting the lives of our neighbours (both human and non-human), is overwhelming. However, rather than believing that nothing can change, Christians are to be agents of hope. We believe that Christian faith communities have the potential to offer a glimpse of what true “rich living” entails. A Rocha has partnered with Tear Fund NZ to create the Rich Living series – to assist faith communities to reflect upon how they live and offers practical steps to make sustainability integral to lives of faith.

The first of the Rich Living series, Climate Change is available now, with four other booklets (Water, Food, Transportation, Stuff & Waste) soon to follow. To download your copy click here.

 

Resource: Missions Dilemma

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Our NZCMS office is continually on the lookout for great training materials. So whenever a new book or DVD comes into the office I like to take home and share with my husband. Neither of us have much experience in cross-cultural mission, so we’re the perfect test subjects to see whether a book or course can relate to ‘normal Christians.’

Missions Dilemma has struck a chord with us. Steve Saint’s back story is compelling; his father and four other missionaries were martyred by Amazonian tribesmen. Despite that, at the age of 9 Steve, his mother and aunt were invited to live back in the village and share the Gospel. Forgiveness and reconciliation was forged, and the tribe now “walk God’s trail.”  And out of this incredible experience, Steve has dedicated his life to global mission.

This DVD series builds on concepts that Steve discussed in his 2001 book The Great Omission. He explores some of the common mistakes made by well-meaning short-term and long-term missionaries. Though it’s told from an American perspective, the stories could just as easily be about Kiwis. Each session is a 30 minute long video with several interviews in different parts of the world. 

Many churches struggle knowing how to bring everyone on to the same page when it comes to mission. Well, it’d be easy to invite people to stay after one or two Sunday services to watch a session over a cuppa. Those who especially enjoyed it could be invited to complete the series as part of a focus group. Or better still, a session could easily be played in place of a sermon one or two Sundays – a powerful way to expose the entire congregation to solid missional reflection.

Session one captures the focus of the whole series, getting us imagining the point of view of the recipients of mission. Steve states it plainly: “we can be absolutely convinced that we are right and still be wrong”.

You can go as in-depth with the series as you like. You can happily just watch the DVD’s, but if you want to go deeper there are reflections an discussion questions to ponder over for each session.

If you’re looking for an ‘easy’ introduction to cross-cultural missions, this series is the one! If your church is sending out a Mission Partner or a short term team, or simply wanting to grow in mission as a congregation, then get your whole church on-board by watching this series.

To find out more and to rent/buy the series visit www.vimeo.com/ondemand/missionsdilemma 

The digital workbook can be found at www.itecusa.org/missions-dilemma

We’re all called to Participate (Issue 31)

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In the latest Intermission we’re looking at ways that each of us can get involved in mission, whoever or wherever we are. Here’s the introduction – we’ll post the articles from the magazine over the next few weeks. To receive the Intermission in the post email office@nzcms.org.nz

Maybe you feel like the frog above. He’s a hard worker who’s good with his hands, loves his family, cleans up after his dog on walks, and is an all-round great guy. But for one reason or another, he doesn’t think mission is for him. He knows of the super-stars who have exciting callings to serve God in exotic places or to serve the church as a pastor or priest, but he’s just a ‘normal Christian.’ And he’s content with that.

But he shouldn’t be content, because God isn’t! There’s no classism in God’s Kingdom – each and every one of us is called to participate in mission. God welcomes us all into the playground of his world and has something unique and essential for everyone to contribute. But participation is different for each one of us.

It’s easy to get trapped into thinking that participating in mission looks a particular way. And if we don’t fit our own image of mission, we assume there’s no place for us. You might see mission as going overseas, or constantly preaching the Gospel to friends, or standing up for the oppressed, or spending every evening at a soup kitchen. We need a new paradigm of mission that’s wide enough for us all – with our unique talents, passions and perspectives.

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

How Should Christians Relate to Muslims?

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Developing a Biblical World-view on Islam By Ida Glaser Now that the Islamic holy month of  Ramadan has started, we thought it would be good to highlight some material on Islam. This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga.

The UK Times newspaper last autumn introduced its readers to the use of taweez[1] in popular Sufi Sunni Islam. Why? Because it was reporting on the conviction of a Salafi for murdering an imam who practised this form of Islam[2].

 

The variety of Islam

 

Times readers, already familiar with terms like Sunni and Shi’a, Sufi and Salafi, were being introduced to yet another sort of Islam that is practiced by 41% of Pakistanis and 26% of Bangladeshis[3]. How, I wonder, will they integrate this information into the categories of ‘extreme’ and ‘moderate’ Islam that the media have been using hitherto? And how do Christians integrate the variety of Islam into their worldviews?

 

Over the four and a half decades since I perceived God’s concern for Muslims, I have heard many discussions about how Christian mission should be directed. We should focus on ‘folk’ Islam—on the huge percentage of those who use taweez and whose lives are dominated by beliefs in jinn. We should focus on service—to abused women, to minorities suffering from racism and to people in poverty. We should focus on apologetics, on polemics, on dialogue, on co-existence . . . or maybe on political concerns. Perhaps Christians should be at the forefront of countering ISIS-type terrorism.

 

How should we view Islam?

 

Underlying such discussions are questions about how we should view Islam, and these are echoed in the polarized responses to Muslims that are tearing apart today’s evangelical world. I think that the major problem is that we do not know how to fit the variety of Islam into our thought categories. As the secular world struggles to add the world of taweez into its understanding of ‘religion’, so Christians struggle to find room for Islam in their understanding of the world; so we choose existing categories and focus on those Muslims who fit them. Our teachers and preachers urgently need a way of reading the Bible that enables the whole church to relate to the whole variety of Islam and of Muslims.

 

Put this way, we see that the challenge is broader: Islam may be a special case, but we need a biblical worldview that gives a framework for relating to all peoples of all faiths. My book, The Bible and Other Faiths,[4] seeks to provide just that: a way of reading the Bible that so takes into account the religious world ‘behind’ the biblical texts that it helps us to make sense of our own religious world. My recent book, Thinking Biblically about Islam,[5] deals with the special case of Islam.

 

Biblical frameworks

 

Thinking Biblically about Islam develops two biblical frameworks for thought, and applies them in two ways:

 

The biblical frameworks deal, first, with developing a view of humanity that includes Muslims and, second, with developing a way of understanding Islam. The two are related, because ‘Islam’ is practised by human beings—which is, of course, why it displays such variety.

 

The applications ask, first, how we might think about various aspects of Islam—the Qur’an, Muhammad, the Umma, and Shari‘a—and, second, how our biblical studies might transform us in our relationships with Muslim people.

 

The double two-fold analysis reflects a tension that underlies much of the polarization of Christian responses to Islam: that we are trying to understand Islam as a system that post-dates Jesus Christ and sees itself as superseding Christianity, and also trying to relate to the huge proportion of human beings who are Muslims. On the one hand, many Christians feel that Islam should never have come into existence, and that Muslims are intruders in their world. On the other hand, many Christians live in places where they meet Muslims every day, and have Muslims as friends and colleagues and family members whom they love.

 

Here is a ‘taster’ of the two biblical frameworks:

 

The framework for a view of humanity that includes Muslims

 

This is developed from Genesis 4-11. It is a standard analysis of text as a chiasm(the Greek capital chi looks like X)—that is, it has a shape ABCB’A’ or ABA’ or ABCDC’B’A’ etc. The first and last elements ‘match’ as they set themes and subjects, and may repeat words. The central element is the heart of the matter. The intermediate elements ‘match’ (here, they are both genealogies) and tell you how the whole argument sticks together.[6] Hence the analysis matches Genesis 4 and 11, Genesis 5 and 10, and then sees Genesis 6-9 as central.

 

From Genesis 1-3, we learn that all human beings, including Muslims, are both made in the image of God and fallen. Genesis 4-11 gives an analysis of a religious fallen world that can be read as a chiasm. The beginning and the end deal with individual and societal religion; the centre point is the flood story; and in between come the genealogies that are so important to the whole structure of Genesis:

 

A Chapter 4: Human beings outside Eden seek to approach God through a religious act. It is not clear why one is accepted and another is rejected, but it is clear that this results in violence.

 

B Chapter 5: Humans have a common origin, and all (except Enoch who points to a hope of life) share in the genealogy of death.

 

C Chapters 6-9: God’s response to spreading violence is one of anger and pain (6:6). The flood story is read as offering two possible ways for God to deal with the evil—the judgment of the flood, and the covenant commitment that follows Noah’s sacrifice. The latter indicates God’s preference for the duration of history.

 

B’ Chapter 10: Human societies have a common origin, and are under the providential life-giving hand of God.

 

A’ Chapter 11: There is a human tendency to use religion to propagate a particular people’s power and territory. This is dangerous religion, which God will judge in order to limit the resulting evil.

 

This analysis provides some simple but powerful categories for thinking about Sunniand Shi’a, about Sufi and Salafi, and about users of taweez and ISIS supporters who kill idolaters.

 

A: Individual religion. We can understand all Muslims as people trying to approach God, whether with Abel-like or with Cain-like motivations. We can expect violent religious quarrels to arise over questions of what pleases God.

 

So we can expect schisms like those between the Sunni and the Shi’a. However, we can also expect some of the Sufis, who seek the face of God as a lover seeks the beloved, to be ‘Abel’s’ of the Muslim world. The story makes us ask how far we can judge which of the ISIS supporters who sacrifice their own lives are like Cain, and which are like Abel.

 

A’: Societal religion. We can understand the various political dimensions of Islam as manifestations of a normal human tendency to fuse religion, ethnicity and power.[7]We can be sure that, where this fusion builds exploitative power structures that are against God, he will limit the damage that they do to his good creation.

 

B and B’: Genealogies. All this is the shared human condition. Muslims are not intruders in our world: we are all part of God’s world. One implication is that we can expect the Genesis patterns among Christians as well as among Muslims. Christians, too, can argue over who is acceptable to God. Christians, too, can fight and kill each other. Christians, too, can use religion to build empires.

 

C: At the heart of it all is the problem of evil. I do not mean here the question of the origin of evil, although the book does explore some key differences between Muslim and Christian views on the subject through a study of the Adam stories in the Qur’an and the Bible. Rather, the big question raised by the Genesis Noah story is how God deals with evil, and that has implications for how human beings should deal with evil in themselves and in others.

 

This suggests a key to biblically based thinking about the varieties of Islam: we can ask what these particular Muslims see as evil, and how they are trying to deal with it. Take, for example, the taweezusers’ and ISIS supporters’ polarization. Taweez users focus on evils that affect them and their families in their everyday lives; they deal with this through ritual and, often, through trying to control the jinn whom they see as responsible for their troubles. ISIS supporters focus more on political evils, which they see as caused by wrong worship; they often deal with them by trying to destroy the causes.

 

I hope that the Christian reader is by now sharing something of the pain as well as the anger in the heart of God (Gen 6:6). I hope, too, that, like the One whom we serve, that reader is determined to prefer the way of sacrifice and covenant commitment to the way of judgement in response to evil. That takes us to Jesus and His cross, and to the blood which cries out so much louder than that of the martyr, Abel. Perhaps our biggest pain is that that the cross and the blood is missing from Islamic thinking, and so not considered by either taweez users or ISIS supporters in their struggles with evil. That takes us to the heart of the second analytical framework.

 

The framework for understanding Islam

 

This is developed from the transfiguration. Writing the book has led me to realise the centrality of the transfiguration to the synoptic gospels; and John’s Gospel can be read as an exegesis of the transfiguration.[8]

 

The questions to which the transfiguration is the answer are Islamic questions: How does Jesus relate to the previous prophets? What does it mean that he is Messiah? How do we deal with the scandal of His insistence that he will be shamefully killed?

 

Up to this point, the Gospels have been largely in harmony with the qur’anic view of Jesus; and the Qur’an raises the very questions that the Gospels raise. However, Muslims answer them differently.[9] They deny the crucifixion and put Jesus on the same level as all the other prophets. In effect, they reverse the transfiguration and then develop a prophetic-legal tradition built on a figure who combines the law-giving community-founding paradigm of Moses with the law-enforcing monotheistic zeal of Elijah.

 

Such observations provoke a re-reading of the legal and prophetic paradigms represented by Moses and Elijah, not least as ways of dealing with the evils of human sinfulness. On the one hand, how can the biblical material help us to appreciate the strengths as well as the weaknesses of Islam? On the other hand, why is it that the biblical accounts of these prophets find their fulfilment in the cross of Christ rather than in the Medina of Muhammad?

 

Hence, an understanding of the purpose and nature, riches and limitations of biblical law and prophethood offers some categories for thinking about Islam; and it opens a way of reading the New Testament that sheds light on how and why it holds such good news for Muslims. From cover to cover, the Bible speaks into the world of Islam, and into the bewilderment of secular and Christian people who are struggling to understand it.

 

What is the implication for evangelical leaders? Let us seriously put the Bible ‘in conversation with’ Islamic thinking and with Muslim people, and let us preach the whole counsel of God into our hurting world.

 

Muslims are still waiting for the coming of Jesus and other messianic figures, to deal finally with evil by destroying the wicked and rescuing the good. As Christians, too, wait for the final judgment, what difference does it make to our preaching and to our lives that the Messiah has already come, and has dealt with evil on the cross? The cross is the acceptable sacrifice available for the Cain’s as well as for the Abel’s; it challenges all fusions of religion and power, and it brings together, once and for all, the judgment that cleanses and the pain that forgives. How can we make that cross the basis of all our responses to Islam?

Missional Songs for God’s People

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Songs have power. Their music resonates through our being and when sung with others songs bind us as one. Their words become the story we live, melodious lyrics lingering long after all else is forgotten. So what story do we want to be living?

‘Moving Together’ is a resource full of songs, poems and artwork produced from people within Aotearoa and the Pacific. The songs in this book offer a story that is the size of God’s dreams for our world and for us. Bound together, this book invites you into noticing goodness and possibility, grieving, rejoicing, responding to and moving with the Spirit of God in our world.

Copies of this book are available for $20  and can be ordered through the website tekareongawai.org/movingtogether or by contacting the General Synod office of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (+64 9 521 4439, gensec@anglicanchurch.org.nz). 

Short-term Mission – further reading

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As a follow up to our issue of Intermission about ‘short-term mission’ here’s some useful online articles that capture some of the pitfalls of short-term mission and ‘voluntourism.’

A Cautionary Tale. A brilliantly funny short video from the Helping Without Hurting training mentioned at the end of this Intermission. 

The Voluntourism Paradox. How your visit to orphanages could be traumatising children, breaking up families and fuelling human trafficking. 

Western do-gooders need to resist the allure of ‘exotic problems.’ A deeper look at the problems addressed in Noah’s article. 

The Good Missionary. A look at short-term mission trips through the eyes of an African orphan. 

Stop Calling it a Short-Term Missions Trip. Why the phrase ‘short-term mission trip’ is unhelpful, and some better alternatives. 

When Short Term Missions is Actually Christian Tourism. Our saviour complex is challenged when we realise they might not need us. 

Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Mission Trips. How our going and giving can actually hurt those we’re going to. 

 

Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Mission (Issue 28)

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At the end of a trip, one of the students uttered the words every leader hopes to hear: “This was the best short-term mission experience I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a bunch.” I’ve led my fair share of teams, so what made this one so good? Was it my amazing, charismatic leadership? … Actually, no! Perhaps ironically, it’s because we didn’t follow the typical approaches for short-term mission trips.

In many cases, short-term teams want to maximize the opportunity by visiting as many places, people and projects as they can. Instead, we decided to stay in one location and work with one church. And typically, short-term teams pack as much into the schedule as possible. In our case, it wasn’t long before our contact ran out of things for us to do! He’d even dismiss the team after morning Bible studies, telling us to “just take rest today.” We were in a bustling South Asian city, so once the contact left I’d whisper to the team: “we’re not taking rest today.” Instead we’d break into groups, ask God what we should do, and then go do it. We’d end up encountering new people, finding and meeting needs, and sharing life with various folk. It’s hard to summarise just how fruitful this actually was!

So why did my student think this was the best mission experience he’d had? “Because what we’ve done here is precisely what we can do back home.” Normally we run around doing so much, meaning there’s no way we can replicate it in our normal lives. But here, we were integrating mission and regular life. We were learning how to be open to the opportunities God was opening up in front of us.

FINDING A BETTER WAY

This experience left me wondering: are there approaches and models for short-term teams that will help people integrate what they learn into their ‘normal lives.’ I’m not interested in people creating nice memories. There needs to be something of ongoing value from the experience for both the team and those we’re seeking to serve. How can we be making disciples (Matthew 28:19) not just good trips?

Many short-term teams go out with very little solid training – but good intentions are simply not enough! Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions (Moody Publishers, 2014) is a new biblically grounded training package designed to help short-term teams prepare, process and maximise their experience. It also helps teams avoid attitudes and practices that actually harm the communities we’re seeking to bless. Though it focuses on teams going to poorer communities, we think it’s beneficial for almost any team crossing cultures.

It’s made up of eight 90 minute sessions that include reflections, discussion questions and short video teachings. Each team member receives a Participants Guide to help them process all they’re learning, and the Leader’s Guide is designed to give the team leader(s) all they need to know to facilitate the training, preparation and debrief. We hope this package will assist many Kiwis put together, implement and process short-term mission encounters.

If you’re interested in finding out more or discussing your ideas for a short-term Encounter Team experience with NZCMS, email kirstin@nzcms.org.nz

 

For discussion

In what ways do teams need to prepare and train well – whether for a cross-cultural trip or local mission?

If you want to explore in your small group how these concepts apply to local (and global) mission, I can’t recommend enough the free online video series ‘Helping Without Hurting’

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.